I went to see this film mainly because I have enjoyed the previous work of director Guillermo del Toro. I have only a casual knowledge of anime and in particular stories of giant human-piloted machines (or mecha) that fight monsters so I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this. This film succeeds in giving us the spectacle of destruction that it promises but still keeps the story grounded on a human scale.
When Earth comes under attack from an invasion of giant monsters (called kaiju) from a rift at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to another dimension the nations unite to create giant machines capable of killing them. These machines are called Jaegers and have to be operated by two pilots whose minds are linked by a technology called the drift. Because these pilots are putting their lives at risk to save they are celebrities and some have the ego to match.
This all explained in narration and montage by one of the pilots Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who pilots a jaeger called Gypsy Danger with his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff). We get to meet their commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and the ops technician who runs the monitors and comms op Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr.). Raleigh and Yancy take Gypsy Danger out against an enormous kaiju. The fight does not go the brothers’ way Yancy gets killed leaving Raleigh to kill the kaiju alone. All this happens before the title screen comes up and the film starts.
The film restarts five years later and the world leaders tell Pentecost that they are shutting down the Jaeger programme in favour of building giant walls to keep out the kaiju. Raleigh is a homeless drifter working on the construction of one of the walls. Pentecost decides that even if the governments have turned their backs on them the Earth still needs them so he wants to keep going with one final push to try to seal up the rift. He recruits Raleigh who is afraid of going back into the drift since he was connected Yancy when he died.
The story of the fallen hero who re-enters the battle and regains his confidence and the respect of his comrades is not exactly novel but it is the backbone of a story that really does a good amount of character development for a film that is about giant robots killing monsters. Pentecost has a young assistant Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who really wants to be a pilot and is by far the best qualified to drift with Raleigh. Pentecost is reluctant to let her but he relents and we learn the reason for this fatherly concern later as we see more of her backstory.
The big fights are really well done and there’s an authentic sense of damage to real things as the kaiju tear up chunks of cities and the jaegers tear up the kaiju. During the battles the focus is always kept on the human crews in the jaegers giving a sense of the stakes as the kaiju fight back.
The weakest thing in the film for me was the pair of scientists they have as their research team Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) that are crudely drawn cartoons of scientists and who constantly bicker like they are married to each other. They are working on figuring out where the kaiju are coming form and if they can seal the rift. To do this they have to contact Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), a black market dealer in kaiju parts, to get them a kaiji brain. Geiszler was bearable but Gottlieb seemed to just be weird for the sake it and it wasn’t convincing. There was also the arrogant jaeger pilot Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky) whose entire character seemed to be defined by the chip on his shoulder about Raleigh coming back.
The design of future Hong Kong really does fit in with idea of a society that has gotten used to kaiju attacks with the city rebuilt around the bones of dead kaiju too large to be removed and kaiju souvenirs and merchandise for sale. There’s even a temple of a cult of kaiju worshippers in a huge kaiju skull.
I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would though not as much as other people did. It is exactly what you expect it to be and if you think you’ll enjoy that you probably will because it is made very well by someone with a determination to get it right. Idris Elba deserves the praise he gets for his performance though Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Hunnam give credible performances too. It is a big loud action film so if you are going to see it this is one that will probably look better on the big screen
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Review: Pacific Rim (gofrereviews.wordpress.com)
- Review: Pacific Rim (2013) (monsterzeronj.wordpress.com)